Tag Archives: Mars

mars

NASA chooses ASU for Mars 2020 mission

Arizona State University has been selected by NASA to design, deliver and oversee the Mastcam-Z imaging investigation, a pair of color panoramic zoom cameras, on the next rover mission to be launched to the surface of Mars in 2020. Jim Bell, a professor in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, will be the principal investigator overseeing the investigation.

NASA has selected the instruments that will be carried aboard the Mars 2020 mission, a roving laboratory based on the highly successful Curiosity rover. The instruments were competitively selected from 58 proposals submitted, two times the average number of proposals submitted for instrument competitions in the recent past and an indicator of the extraordinary interest in exploration of the Red Planet.

The Mars 2020 rover will be designed to seek signs of past life on Mars, to collect and store samples that could be returned to Earth in the future, and to test new technology to benefit future robotic and human exploration of Mars. The instruments onboard will help to build upon the many discoveries from the Curiosity Mars rover and the two Mars Exploration Rovers (Spirit and Opportunity) and will be the critical next step in NASA’s strategic program of exploring the Red Planet.

Bell will oversee an international science team responsible for creating and operating the cameras on NASA’s next, yet-to-be-named, Mars rover. Bell has been responsible for the science imaging systems onboard the NASA Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity, and is the deputy P.I. of the color cameras on the Curiosity rover.

“These cameras will be the main eyes of NASA’s next rover,” says Bell.

The imaging system ASU will deliver is a pair of multispectral, stereoscopic cameras that will be an enhanced descendant of Curiosity’s successful imaging instrument called Mastcam. Mastcam-Z will be comprised of two zoom camera heads to be mounted on the rover’s remote sensing mast. This matched pair of zoom cameras will each provide broad-band red/green/blue (RGB) color imaging, as well as narrow-band visible to short-wave near-infrared multispectral capability.

Mastcam-Z will have all of the capabilities of Curiosity’s imaging instrument, but is augmented by a 3.6:1 zoom feature capable of resolving features about 1 millimeter in size in the near field and about 3-4 centimeters in size at 100 meter distance.

“The cameras that we will build and use on Mars are based on Curiosity’s cameras but with enhanced capabilities,” explains Bell. “Specifically we will be able to use our zoom capability to allow us to play a much more significant role in rover driving and target selection.”

Mastcam-Z’s imaging will permit the science team to piece together the geologic history of the site—the stratigraphy of rock outcrops and the regolith, as well as to constrain the types of rocks present. The cameras will also document dynamic processes and events via video (such as dust devils, cloud motions, and astronomical phenomena, as well as activities related to driving, sampling, and caching), observe the atmosphere, and contribute to rover navigation and target selection for investigations by the coring/caching system, as well as other instruments.

Bell’s large international science team will include Mark Robinson, School of Earth and Space Exploration professor and principal investigator for the imaging system on board NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera. Robinson brings significant experience in planetary geology and spacecraft imaging and will be responsible for characterizing the regolith from Mastcam‐Z images and assisting with camera calibration and mission operations.

In addition, Bell intends to involve a significant number of staff, undergraduate students, and graduate students in the mission. For example, SESE Research Scientist Craig Hardgrove and Technology Support Analyst Austin Godber are slated to play leading roles in the design, testing, and operations of the Mastcam-Z investigation.

Mastcam-Z remote instrument operations will be directed from the ASU Science Operations Center (SOC), housed in the Mission Operations Center located in the Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building IV on the ASU campus. ASU faculty, staff, and students will work closely with mission engineering leads at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

“We are very excited about playing such a critical role in NASA’s next Mars rover. And we are especially excited because this rover will be the first step in NASA’s Mars rover sample return mission,” says Bell. “We are eager are to play a role in the selection of the first Martian samples for eventual return to Earth.”

Which Common Brands Are Most Sustainable?

As you do your shopping this holiday season, would it help to know exactly which toys, electronics, food and other items are better for the environment? A prominent researcher at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University is helping to develop a system that will tell retailers, manufacturers, and eventually consumers, about the sustainability of many of the products we buy every day.

Professor Kevin Dooley is research director of The Sustainability Consortium, an impressive group administered by Arizona State University and the University of Arkansas, featuring big-name-members, such as Unilever, BASF, MillerCoors, Mars and Walmart, with combined revenue of more than $1.5 trillion. The consortium is developing criteria that will allow you to easily identify which products are the most sustainable in their categories, based on factors like emissions, labor practices, water usage and waste creation. The consortium’s efforts were recently named among 10 “world-changing ideas” that are “radical enough to alter our lives” by Scientific American, and this year, the consortium’s work really vaulted forward.

“We have now established the critical issues and best areas in which to improve more than 100 types of the most common products — everything from electronics and toys, to food, drinks and personal care items,” says Dooley. “We’re helping businesses focus on the most important sustainability issues and giving them a way to measure and share their progress in making products better. This year, we were able to make rapid progress, thanks to the intense efforts of our staff and the stakeholders involved.”

In addition to big advances in creating these tools for companies to use, the consortium also finalized a huge partnership this year. The Consumer Goods Forum is a commercial trade organization with more than 400 retailers, manufacturers, service providers and others as members worldwide. Working with this group will help the consortium to create a single global framework for sharing information between retailers, manufacturers, suppliers and consumers.

The consortium also announced expansion into China, thanks to a $2 million grant from the Walmart Foundation. The consortium will build relationships with Chinese manufacturers and retailers, exchanging information about best practices. It will also help implement a training program for Chinese factory managers and owners, utilizing regional knowledge about social and environmental issues. In other global efforts, the consortium hosted visits and events in Chile and Japan this year, and it’s strengthening ties with a university in Europe.

Dooley says making products more sustainable is getting even more important, as the number of middle-class consumers worldwide keeps growing. We’re creating and consuming more goods — using more energy and disposing of more waste in the process.

“It’s vital to show companies that sustainability and profits aren’t mutually exclusive,” says Dooley. “Investing in sustainability can actually help boost a firm’s bottom line. Sustainability efforts involve streamlining processes, using less energy and creating less packaging. All of this can help save both money and the environment.”

Dooley adds that 40 to 50 percent of environmental impacts can be traced to the life cycle of consumer products sold in retail stores. Therefore, making better choices about which products we buy and how those products are manufactured are truly significant. Dooley notes that some criteria developed by The Sustainability Consortium are already influencing major companies.

“For example, Walmart now requires all suppliers of laptop computers to ship those computers with energy-saving settings as the default,” says Dooley. “Other retailers are already using the consortium’s criteria to choose areas in which they can ask their suppliers to improve. Hopefully, we’re helping many companies consider more sustainability aspects when they’re selecting suppliers and drawing up contracts.”

Dooley teaches sustainability in the W. P. Carey School of Business’ supply chain management programs, consistently ranked Top 10 nationwide. He points out the pioneering way The Sustainability Consortium is integrating the efforts of members across academia, government, private companies and non-governmental organizations. The group is conducting practical research that can affect mainstream consumers around the world.

“The current focus of the consortium is to make the existing system of creating and using products as efficient as possible,” says Dooley. “As industry capabilities mature, we and others will also start looking at how we can consume less, reuse more, change products to services, and make items last longer overall.”

In 2013, the consortium will start working on criteria for clothing, footwear, textiles and many different durable goods like bicycles and hardware. To learn more about The Sustainability Consortium’s efforts, visit http://www.sustainabilityconsortium.org/.